Stanley Cup Playoffs; Round 1, Game 4: Winnipeg Jets at St. Louis Blues

The Winnipeg Jets earned a very essential Game 3 win on Sunday, one that prevented them from having the very daunting task of winning four games in a row. But the pressure is still on, as they look to even up the series on the road.

Standing in their way is the St. Louis Blues, who after hard-fought victories in the first two games, stumbled in a loss on home ice. A win for the Blues puts them on the brink of advancing to the next round.

Here’s a brief recap of Game 3, along with some keys to win tonight’s showdown.

Game 3: Jets Soar

An offense that had been pretty quiet this series thus far woke up on Sunday, as the Jets erupted for six goals in the win. Kyle Connor scored two goals, one of them via the power play, and Patrik Laine tallied his third goal of the series.

Even though the teams had the same number of shots on goal and power play opportunities, Winnipeg simply capitalized on their chances more often. In addition, Jordan Binnington had the worst start of his career, allowing all six goals on 29 shots.

Keys for Winnipeg

One key for the Jets at the beginning of the series was production past their first line. They have succeeded with that all throughout the series, with Laine scoring in each game and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien leading the team with five points. Their depth gives them an advantage, and if their strong play continues, Winnipeg can once again win tonight to even up the series.

One big key remains for the Jets, and that’s third period scoring. Brandon Tanev’s goal early in the third was Winnipeg’s first goal in the final period, the last team in the league to record one. In tight playoff games, coming through in the waning minutes will be critical, so the Jets must find a way to score consistently at the end of games.

Keys for St. Louis

Despite the less-than-ideal result, the Blues did have a positive come out of Sunday’s loss. Their power play was successful in two out of five attempts, breaking a streak of seven failed advantages from games 1 and 2. With Winnipeg boasting a penalty kill that ranked just 23rd this season, St. Louis’ ability to score with the extra attacker will be very important.

Another key is Brayden Schenn, one-third of their first line. While linemates Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko have each scored and held their own, Schenn is still scoreless after three games. As someone who recorded 54 points in the regular season, Schenn returning to that level will be pivotal for St. Louis as they have to contend with Winnipeg’s depth.

The Verdict

There are plenty of conflicting numbers that could sway opinion to either team. For instance, the Jets are 8-1 in their last nine games in St. Louis, and the road team in this head-to-head series is 5-0 in the last five games. But coming into Game 3, the Blues had won seven straight home games and 10 of its last 13 games overall.

This will come down to who dominates the first period. If the Blues do, given Winnipeg’s third period struggles as well as their poor record in one-goal games, they will win. But if the Jets come out hot, they’ll really start to expose Binnington and force the Blues to play a faster style they’re not comfortable with. I will side with the Jets +130 to win and even up the series.